For more information, see: Kersey Graves and The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors by Richard Carrier
THE next most important event in the histories of the Saviors after their crucifixion, and the act of giving up the ghost, is that of their descent into the infernal regions. That Jesus Christ descended into hell after his crucifixion is not expressly taught in the Christian bible, but it is a matter of such obvious inference from several passages of scripture, the early Christians taught it as a scriptural doctrine. Mr. Sears, a Christian writer, tells us that "on the doctrine of Christ's underground mission the early Christians were united. ... It was a point too well settled to admit of dispute." (See Foregleams of Immortality, p. 262).
And besides this testimony, the "Apostles' Creed" teaches the doctrine explicitly, which was once as good authority throughout Christendom as the bible itself; indeed, it may be considered as constituting a part of the bible prior to the council of Nice (A.D. 325), being supposed to have been written by the apostles themselves. It declares that "Jesus Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified (dead) and buried. He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead," etc. This testimony is very explicit.
And Peter is supposed to refer to the same event when he says "being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the spirit, by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison." (I Peter iii. 18.) The word prison, which occurs in this text, has undoubted reference to the Christian fabled hell. For no possible sense can be attached to the word prison in this connection without such a construction. Where have spirits ever been supposed to be imprisoned but in hell? And then we find a text in the Acts of the Apostles, which seems to remove all doubt in the case, and banishes at once all ground for dispute. It is explicitly stated that "his soul was not left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption." (Acts ii. 31.) Why talk about his soul not being left in hell if it had never been there? Language could hardly be plainer. The most positive declaration that Christ did descend into hell could not make it more certainly a scriptural Christian doctrine.
We, then, rest the case here, and proceed to enumerate other cases of Gods and Saviors descending into Pandemonium (the realms of Pluto) long before Jesus Christ walked on the water or on the earth. It is unquestionably stated in the Hindoo bible, written more than three thousand years ago, that the Savior Chrishna "went down to hell to preach to the inmates of that dark and dreary prison, with the view of reforming them, and getting them back to heaven, and was willing himself to stiffer to abridge the period of their torment." And certainly, in the midst of the fire and smoke of brimstone, it could not have been hard to effect their conversion or repentance. One writer tells us that "so great was his (Chrishna's) tenderness, that he even descended into hell to teach souls in bondage. Now observe how much "teaching souls in bondage" sounds like "preaching to souls in prison," as Peter represents Christ as doing. And can any reader doubt that the meaning in the two cases is the same? And must we not confess that we are greatly indebted to the Hindoo bible for an explanation of the two occult and mysterious texts which I have quoted from the Christian bible, and which have puzzled so many learned critics to explain, or find a meaning for?
We have another case of a God descending into hell in the person or spirit of the Savior Quexalcote of Mexico, (300 B.C.) The story will be found in the Codex Borgianus, wherein is related the account of his death, and burial after crucifixion, his descent into hell, and subsequent resurrection. Of Adonis of Greece it is declared, that "after his descent into hell, he rose again to life and immortality." Prometheus of Caucasus (600 B.C.) likewise is represented as "suffering and descending into hell, rising again from the dead, and ascending to heaven." Horus of Greece is described as "first reigning a thousand years, then dying, and being buried for three days, at the end of which time he triumphed over Typhon, the evil principle, and rose again to life evermore." And Osiris of Egypt also is represented as making a descent into hell, and after a period of three days rose again.
Homer and Virgil speak of several cases of descent into Pluto's dominions. Hercules, Ulysses and AEneas are represented as performing the hellward journey on, as we infer, benevolent missions. Higgins remarks, "The Gods became incarnate, and descended into hell to teach humility and set an example of suffering."
The story of their descent into hell was doubtless invented to find employment for them during their three days of hibernation or conservation in the tomb, that they might not appear to be really dead nor idle in the time, and as a still further proof of their matchless and unrivalled capacity and fortitude for suffering.
And the story of the three days' entombment is likewise clearly traceable in appearance to the astronomical incident of the sun's lying apparently dead, and buried, and motionless for nearly three days at the period of the vernal epoch, from the twenty-first to the twenty-fifth of March. It was a matter of belief or fancy that the sun remained stationary for about three days, when he gradually rose again "into newness of life." And hence, this period or era was chosen to figuratively represent the three days' descent of the Gods into hell. We are told that the Persians have all ancient astronomical figure representing the descent of a God, divine, into hell, and returning at the time that Orsus, the goddess of spring, had conquered the God or genus of winter, after the manner St. John describes the Lamb of God (see Rev. xii) as. conquering the dragon, which may be interpreted as the Scorpion or Dragon of the first month of winter (October) being conquered by the Lamb of March or spring.